Tampa City Council approves $300,000 study to expand reclaimed water program by Mitch E. Perry

10/26/06

The Tampa City Council today agreed to pay a consultant over $300,000 to figure out how to expand the city’s reclaimed water program. It comes 2 years after the City began the service exclusively in the South Tampa area. But the program has had only limited success, due in part to little financial incentive for customers.

Steve Daignault, the city’s administrator for public works and utility services, began his presentation to the council by informing them that the city has reached it’s permit level to get its water from the Hillsborough River, and now will have to start buying more water from Tampa Bay Water. He says this makes it important to find out how to expand its reclaimed water system – which is used for irrigation, and not for human consumption (roll tape#1 o.q.� along the way�)

The Star Program – which stand for South Tampa Area Reclaimed has never rolled out in the fashion that city officials had intended to years ago. Damaged pipe lines and construction delays were part of the problem – the other is that it simply doesn’t seem cost efficient for many potential customers, who need to pay $375 to have a meter installed to get into the program. They also would need to pay a plumber to set up the connection.

Councilman John Dingfelder hoped that reduced fees might be part of the consultant’s purview (roll tape#2 o.q.�as to who could sign up�)

Councilman Sean Harrison said that the STAR program has been in existence in South Tampa for awhile, and could be considered a bust. He said that with the growth in his district in New Tampa, he hoped the consultant would look at expanding the program in that area.

Steve Daignault said that in fact, the Westshore and Gandy areas have had strong growth themselves in recent years, but Harrison argued back (roll tape#3 o.q.� “)

Dagnault did say that to build a pipeline to bring water to the New Tampa & Pasco County region could potentially cost up to $100 million dollars

City Councilwoman Rose Ferlita says she is a STAR customer herself, living in the Hyde Park area. But she says too many people aren’t using the service because of the price, and urged Dagnault to try to find a way to make it cost efficient for citizens (roll tape#4 o.q. “and I think that’s one of the reasons�)

Both councilmembers Dingfelder and Harrison continued to stress that the consultant’s study look at making it city wide, and also potentially better for current STAR customers.

Tampa Water Department Director Brad Baird promised that would happen (roll tape#5 o.q.� to a successful project’)

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According to the Tampa Tribune, water restrictions imposed by the City have helped attract STAR customers. The Tribune reports nearly 500 people signed up for the program from March through August.

Because of that, City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said she was disturbed upon reading that the City was contemplating opening up the city’s once a week watering restrictions (roll tape#5 o.q.�not messing with our water restrictions�)

The City’s John Dagnault promised the city wouldn’t be reducing the water restrictions.

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